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Friday 4 April 2014

HS2 – Isabel’s Hard Reality

Those of us who maintain an interest in the HS2 project know that, although the chorus of disapproval from those opposed to its construction has declined to occasional solo outings, that is far from the end of the exercise. This has been confirmed by the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman, in a post titledPeople’s front against HS2 to unite”. She certainly got the characterisation right.
May look like this. Perhaps

The opposition to HS2 has indeed been haphazard. But I have bad news for those who believe that bringing opponents together under the leadership of Tory MP Andrew Bridgen will make a more convincing case. That is down to the sheer vacuity of many arguments against HS2 – and a refusal by opponents to look at the reasons it has been proposed. Here are just a few of the many examples.

They can just lengthen existing trains: both the main operators out of London’s Euston terminus are already running maximum length trains. Any longer and some eye-wateringly expensive engineering would be needed to support them.

Euston Underground station could not cope: when capacity upgrades to the Victoria and Northern Lines, plus opening the east end of Euston Square station and making it part of the same complex, are completed, there will be more capacity.

But we’ll need Crossrail 2, so it has to be charged to HS2: this supremely dishonest punt has been tried by both the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), and the IEA. The only difference is that the IEA doubled the cost to £20 billion to make HS2 look worse. But the currently protected Crossrail 2 route does not serve Euston. The reason for including it is that it would make the Crossrail 2 business case better. So Crossrail 2 needs HS2, not the other way round.
This problem needs addressing too

Why not spend the money building houses and hospitals? The rationale for HS2 is not just about speed, or passenger trains, but network capacity as a whole. The Rail Freight Group (RFG) estimate of excess of freight demand over capacity without HS2 may prove instructive. You don’t solve that by doing something else.

We should just reopen the Great Central Main Line: a railway built for 75mph trains that was closed 48 years ago, doesn’t serve the North West, and has been built over in many locations, does not address the problem – quite apart from its southern end linking to the Chiltern Line, which is already at capacity at busy times.

High speed rail has failed in the Netherlands and Spain: no it hasn’t. No high speed line has closed, or is “in trouble”.

We can’t afford it: OK, do nothing and watch the road and rail network gradually clog up. We can’t afford not to do it, unless someone has a credible alternative.

And note use of the word “credible”. Bridgen will make no difference without that.


SteveB said...

High Speed Rail MANAGEMENT failed in Netherlands. But then again, their classic rail management has been in the doldrums for years and almost brought their government down. The Spanish system didn't fail, their whole economy failed which is why they have unused motorways and abandoned airports.

Tim Fenton said...

The NL problem was that someone at the domestic HSR provider thought it would be a good idea to be a launch customer for Ansaldo Breda. The trains had hardly entered service than they were withdrawn. And they took years to prepare for that service entry.

On the other hand, the Thalys service is working fine.

The Spanish example is a one train a day each way service that was put on between Toledo and Albacete to gauge demand - this cut out having to go via Madrid Atocha and change trains.

Demand was not good enough and so the service was taken off. Cue anti-HS2 "high speed failure" stories.

Chris Neville-Smith said...

Other point about the Dutch line: the Thalys trains were faster than the NS's own high-speed trains. Passengers voted with their feet and their wallets and chose Thalys. Which is why the NS serve to Brussels was discontinued but the service to Breda survived (when they weren't in competition with Thalys).

Moral: passengers to care about speed, however much the anti-HS2 lot want you to believe otherwise.

SteveB said...

Thalys trains weren't faster - they simply existed when the NS-Hispeed Fyra trains didn't! The Dutch managers had presumably just stumbled out of a "special" cafe when they signed up with Ansaldo Breda for a design which only existed on paper. This despite the appalling problems and delivery overruns suffered by the Danes when they made the mistake of ordering a fleet of IC trains from this shower. Needless to say, the Fyra trains weren't ready when the track was so NS had to hire in slower and not really suitable stopgaps. Then when some Fyra's were delivered they didn't work properly, culminating in an embarrassing lack of brakes during bad weather. At which point the contract was cancelled and the whole project was recast. Thalys doesn't have the capacity to cover for the missing Fyra trains and something will have to be done later to resurrect the original ideas. In the meantime Arriva have been selected to run a replacement cross border service between Den Haag and Brussel since the original Benelux IC trains that should have been replaced by Fyra are too old and knackered to carry on.

But the bottom line is that high speed rail did not fail in the Netherlands, just a few managers.

Spain had several "one a day" trains that were introduced mostly as political favours (often running off highspeed lines to final destinations) and a few have been withdrawn. But they are left with an infrastructure network that will benefit attempts to rebuild the economy. In this case you could say letting politicians have a say was a failure - which brings us back to the Britsh arguments.....!